Song For Sam

We drove across the tumultuous city, Sam
You were perched precariously
in the back seat of the van, listening hard
to my words that flowed like water
the stream of consciousness being voiced
I claimed it would calm you, free you from the tension
and the motion sickness
In reality you were lifting the weight of the sorrow from me
lightening my load with your askance eyes
drinking down the broth of hurt and confusion
that was boiling up inside
That truck was stuffed with all that had formed our home
and when we reached the new place
you nervously watched me unpack
All the while I explained what was happening
what I wasn’t sure that you understood
and why it was, that this might be good for us
That bruised night, Sam, you were the best friend I could have had
providing all I needed, without judgment or argument
I was so proud of you there, Sam, I was so close to you

Ninety nights of drinking up and falling down, Sam
Ninety days of not plugging my heart’s gaping hole
Laid low in bed again, six feet beneath the sheets
You’d come and hover beside me, in your naive curiosity
listening to what I had to say
offering me some calming contact
The softness of your presence could always light a smile
ease the thunder claps of pain
crashing through my battered brain
And with more grace and ease than I could muster
you settled down and found your rhythm within new walls
A certainty to which I could return each day
that familiar look you’d give, saying ‘I’m glad you’re home’
it lifted me from the scraping, bleeding, lows
of that new hollowness I crawled within
I was so grateful, so indebted to you then, Sam
And, finally, when I levelled out again, we played a while
with you running your rings around me

It was a brutishly cold Christmas, Sam
at my mother’s rented house, that winter
We stayed in the upstairs room with a broken window
it got so cold at night, you’d come and lie beside me
keep close for whatever warmth I could provide
Sam, you looked so small just lying there trying to sleep
gripped in the fist of that endless icy grip
I remember seeing you watch me leave
from the upstairs window
A Christmas eve spent with friends from back before I knew you
You didn’t seem to mind me leaving
but I knew I’d be back soon to check on you
And when I returned, you’d charmed my whole family
Sam, you left your mark on them
those smiling faces trailing in your wake

So, I was healed in time, Sam, and you flourished
another pair of loving arms were opened up to us
You were right there, giving your blessing
and looking out for us
Seemingly, you responded well
to the renewed happiness that had blossomed in me
I’d sing my songs to you from time to time
and you never seemed to mind
Just sat, bemused and listening without reproach
My first and only audience in a whole lifetime
of wanting (but not daring) to sing
I wonder what you thought of it
what you made of those croaked notes
They were sung for you Sam, they were sung for me too
You watched so much of my changing life unfold in front of you
The peeking from my cave
to the walking tall in the clear and golden daylight

Sam, you know me, I can’t sit still too long
no sooner was I healed, a new and lasting lover in tow
and it was time to jump out from that goldfish bowl town
No question, no hesitation, you came along and settled in so effortlessly
carving these new lives of ours
among the towering heights of the spiralling capital
And Kate, she loved you so much, and was always there for you
Running from room to room
the closing circles of happiness drew around us
Finally, Sam, I think we were a family, and such a happy one
Watching the Olympic torch paraded past our house
So many memories, sweet mornings, playful evenings
and all our adventures by train and tube and car

But Sam, that last night, you lay there so sluggish
wearing that quietly searching expression
no way to say what was ailing you
and I stayed close, through your illness, to be with you
I knew that night would be the last we shared
We sat together for hours, all of our past replaying in my head
Despite your pain, you wore it well
lost in your quiet thoughts
And as I left the room for the final time
I was never more filled with such an overwhelming sadness
and gratitude
For everything you gave and did and meant to me
the next morning, on the way to work
I remember that song playing on my headphones and Scout was singing
“Baby, what can I do, to make it right for you”
I had tears forming in my tortured eyes
knowing there was nothing more I could do
knowing I’d never see you again

Now, when I venture into the back room
it’s toxic with your absence
a silent freeze-frame that screams your name
Through the creaking emptiness of a soulless place
O, my friend, I don’t want to be without you
My friend, life isn’t the same without you
I wish you were here, I miss you tonight
and won’t forget you, Sam
Thank you, always…

[2013]

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All my poems.

Wail Song

Sometimes, we sing the wail song
Sometimes, it never seems to end
Get well soon and mend all things
Some times never wants to end

I was kneeling in the garden, shuffling the leaves
trying to keep nature in boxes
Wind blows and wind knows I can never win
my shoulders sink, I know I can never win

Sometimes, we sing the wail song
Sometimes, there is nothing we can do
tuck your head below the sheets and wait
Sometimes, there is no sign at all

Sometimes, we sing the wail song
Sometimes, we can’t avoid it
Just push your hopes into a poem
sometimes, it seems, there is no one who will listen

The waves rise over the railings, soaking me
the shock, the cold of the sea’s like magic
in that blast of reality, I achieve some clarity
I’m not afloat, I’m driving this life’s direction

Sometimes, we sing the wail song
sometimes, we get so blinded
reach out and find a sure hand, it will come
sometimes, we have to make more effort

It just takes time… you have to try
take some time, do what you have to
shed the song right off your body
it just takes time, you have to try…

[2011]

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Feels So Far Away This Evening

October shed its skin
across these pavements
Now, November does its best
to wash the mess away
We glide down
the lonely streets of night
lost in appreciation
for the moody glow that guides us

You carry such a heavy heart this season
what was taken
brought you this blackness in exchange
and so I do
whatever I can
to lift it up for you

This dance of conversation
jig of gentle humour
all my attempt
to paint a more hopeful picture
Ease the crush of grief that’s levelled
by a cruel unfeeling world
And gratefully
I’ll give whatever part of me
might dull this pain for you…

There is hope
(I know you know this)
There is a hope
waiting to be held again
in those gentle, loving hands
(I know you know this)
yet it feels so far away this evening

You are loved by so many
(I know you know this)
There is nothing
but a pure, real, love and respect
flowing through my veins for you
(I know you know this)
but I wanted to remind you
in the hope
that you might cease to feel
so far away this evening…

[2013]

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The Hate Destroying You

Doe-eyed woodland artistry glows
O, how you hide your face away
I give and give to you
investment in a broken thing
once-grateful hands crave more and more

There is a sickness of mind
a blackness, a spoilt heart
where blame is always searching
and mirrors do not exist
once-blooming thoughts crush more and more

Pushing on the pillars that held you up
you’ve yanked too hard this final time
the string of respect has frayed to nothing
and now we’ve come to this closing door
once-hopeful eyes fear more and more

One day, when all is settled, I hope you change
let go of all the hate and grow in mind
One day, when all is healed
I wish you love and say
‘Destroy the hate destroying you
and save yourself

Destroy the hate destroying you
and save yourself…’

[2010]

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Image Credit: https://www.behance.net/gallery/273370/Folklore-Illustrations

Note: Reposted. Originally posted October 2019. For the friends needlessly lost.

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A Map of The World

In the bright cave
of memories, retained
lives a warm smile
kept, always, for you
Glowing with sharp precision
it will not fade
You painted the walls
of this space I occupy

With no hint of any slight
that could be held to you
No reason for ill thought
of any kind could be
Though I leave you here, our story over
You’re imprinted on the person
you helped me become

You showed me
a new map of the world
Your mind caught mine
and threw it wide open
I’d never known
such connections could exist
though now friendship only
it’s deeply revered

I remember how we lay
on your narrow bed, listening
Playing each other the records
of the songs that shaped us
You span me ‘Harvest’
I unreeled ‘Knock Knock’
Our minds at peace
in the glow of your globe

When I felt the slow damp tears
collecting in my heart
How I hoped this map would lead us
somewhere else
I’d been so sure
our river was longer
with more meanders
Still your wisdom remains, retained
deep within my bones

You showed me a new map of the world
Where you’d come from
well, I’d never been there
Now, I wonder if I’ll ever go
but if I do, know I take you with me
fondly, always, in my memory

Still your easy way has etched
its map across my brain
A place I think about so often
A place I’ll never be sure
I should have left…

[2011]

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High Tide, Low Life

You paint yourself blue, always blue
this letter brings me down
perched upon a rusty trailer
paint peels over my shoulder

I’ve been drinking 
since the boats were rested
on the muddy estuary bed

It’s high tide, low life
high tide, low life

I won’t stop my reaching out
if there’s any way to help, I’ll find it
you’re so slow to take my hand
scratching at your skin for answers

I don’t have any good advice
I do what I can to just keep living right
I’ll listen if you’ll let me
you know; my love is not the enemy

It can’t be this way forever
it won’t always be like this

It’s high tide, low life
high tide, low life

You say you only paint
when you get blue
and I suppose
that’s just the way
the sea feels

You paint yourself blue
always blue
I guess
that’s just the way
the sea feels…

[2020]

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Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mr-prints/4717465064/

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Harm’s Arms

Let me admit, to you, my fear
of those ghostly hands
twisting the knife
in the belly of our lives

These house-bound blues
echo louder some days
these house-bound blues
and their hypnotically sad song

My memories reach out for you
you’ve changed your number
my happy memories are reaching out
yet we may never speak again

And though estranged
often, I still wonder
of your gently closing eyes 
your winning smile

I want to know you’re safe
amidst these dangerous days
I long to know you’ll remain
well beyond the grip
of harm’s arms…

Remember when the two of us
were still on first name terms
with the sweetest laughter
running down those midnight sands

Wherever you are tonight
know I’ll care about you always
I hope you’re sailing through
these toxic times

Stay safe tonight
I long to know for certain
you’re far beyond the reach
of harm’s arms…

[2020]

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Photo credit: https://www.instagram.com/nightwalkermagazine/

For Mirim.

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Letter From The Lake

Dear friend
a sigh is leaving me
I can concentrate now, finally
a statue, standing on the jetty
the lake’s slow wash below the boards
hypnotising me

I feel freer now than ever
more than I did back there
I don’t know how you toil on
those boiling days below the city
tinned-life crammed in
and searching for air

You wrote me of the love you found
that you always dreamed was waiting
head cocked to one side
a wry smile you’re both sharing
suddenly but so completely
a focus for all that untamed love in you

Here, life moves slow
but never stops completely
there is a girl down in the town
who looks at me so coyly
and some rough lad up at the farmhouse
who would gladly make me his

Between the wind-battered fields
and evenings pickling in the only pub
I keep an eye out for that inner peace
one night I might let him take me
or another, dance her into a barn

I’ve been finding something here
but, speaking plainly, it’s not you
I’m still swimming out each morning
with that pale look upon my face
I swim six laps before breakfast
the palest hope painting my face

I wish you well
and happy with whoever
come and see me one year soon
come up to the water and stay
until then, my friend
take care…

[2013]

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Lend Me Your Light

Friend, we drink together
talking at a wedding
lit blue and gold
familiar faces dance around us

Friend, secretly, I wonder
if you were to open up your essence
lift a pen to kiss the paper
to vent your heart aloud

Friend, I long to know
what your poetry would be
if you chose to write

Which desires peskily linger
at the edges of your furrowed mind
which old flames still burn a fire
which hidden wounds you’d dare parade
what is the meter
and the rhythm of those unspoken secrets

What ribbon would you choose
to decorate the mundane
Which words would you feverishly grasp towards
what profound truths
do your fingertips quietly trace
which wisdoms guide you along your way
what strength of light shines inside of you
and what damage might you do
to leave us reeling

And I don’t say it
but every time we meet, I think it
Write!
right out loud
for me
for you
splash your heart across the page
in every shade
lend me your light
if but for a moment

Spill your soul for all to see
Friend, I love you, and will always wonder
what your poetry would be
if you’d set it free…

[2020]

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The Friend You Lost

Forgive
accept
let go
empathize…
There have always been two sides
relax the pains
loosen the hurt
you’re not the only one
you’re not the only one
who couldn’t cope

Forgive
see common ground
smile
at peace…
of course; the other burned too
imagine what they went through
moved too fast? Awful timing? Yes
you weren’t the only one
you weren’t the only one
struggling to move on

Don’t drown these precious things in anger
don’t lose sight
of all that was beautiful
such indelible jokes
and love and laughter
Forgive
accept
let go
smile at the friend you kept…

[2011]

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